July 15, 2015

There is no segregation of men and women

THE SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM AND ITS ADMINISTRATION – By Jayantilal Parekh - We have recently come across an article that was written by the late Jayantilal Parekh, a senior and greatly respected member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, ...
The Ashram is not a planned project, but an adventure of consciousness with innumerable possibilities and dimensions. Such an intricate and difficult path, with its goal of transformation, creates its own difficulties for the common man’s under­ standing. This has been the main reason why some’ people have not appreciated the life in the Ashram with its seemingly laissez-faire attitude in certain respects. But according to Sri Aurobindo, any worthwhile unfolding ‘of the inner life must have as its base a large freedom.

Sex and Spiritual Life
The problem of sex and spirituality has been discussed through the ages. It is necessary to be clear-headed about it. Sex is neither a sin nor a perversion; it is a process of Nature, a biological necessity in animals and animal-man. However, it is inconsistent with true spiritual life because the sexual desire and act bring down the consciousness, whereas spirituality is an attempt to raise the consciousness and keep it stationed above the promptings of the lower nature. For the generality of men, this process of raising the consciousness is not simple or easy or even understandable. Even for the most ardent aspirants to the spiritual life, there are innumerable diffi­culties. During the process of the seeker’s sadhana, it is not unusual for him to have upsurges of sexual desire, which have to be progressively controlled, sublimated and transcended. This is the way in which a seeker of spiritual light and knowledge progresses; the ordinary man, on the other hand, lives within the ambit of his animal consciousness, tempered by social, moral and cultural constraints.

A seeker should not be shocked when this sexual urge surfaces and invades his consciousness. There is hardly any saint or sage who has not suffered from it at some time or other in his life before he attained spiritual enlightenment. Sri Ramakrishna, when he first became aware of it, wanted to kill himself if Mother Kali did not remove it from his nature.

Sri Aurobindo has dealt with the subject of sexual desire in many of his letters to disciples when they complained of its disturbance. He always said that this force of Nature, so deeply rooted in man, should first be seen as coming from outside, then controlled and ultimately transcended and transformed. Sex-energy becomes a crea­ tive power when it is purified and transformed. This creative energy has to be made a part of our life and not suppressed out of fear.

Sex need not be made a bugbear of spiritual life. It is only one part of the obstinate resistance of the lower nature. If there are falls in the course of one’s spiritual effort, if there are lapses in the process of self-purification, they have to be viewed with understanding and sympathy so long as the seeker realises his failings and does not try to justify them. Often for a long time, spiritual aspiration and the pull of the lower nature go side by side.

In the Ashram there is no attempt to hide instances of sexual lapses by indivi­duals or to cover them up. At the same time, it is not necessary to publicise them or make a public confession of them for the gratification of the curious and the lovers of scandal, much less to fabricate stories which have no basis.

Having admitted children into the Ashram and taken charge of them, the problems arising from their attaining puberty cannot be ignored. Every boy and girl, the moment he or she reaches the age of puberty, becomes aware of the insistence of this force of Nature. It is a part of the problem that life has set before us to solve with love and patience towards the young. Spiritual life is not imposed on the children growing up here. It is for them to decide the course of their life when they are ready to take a decision on their own. Spiritual life can never be imposed on anyone. It is a call of the soul in its endeavour to conquer the lower nature.

In our Centre of Education, boys and girls study together, play games together and develop their physical and intellectual capacities in full freedom. Romantic ideas are not encouraged, but there is no segregation of men and women in cloisters; rather, a sense of responsibility for their behaviour is allowed to grow in them. If there is risk in this arrangement, the risk is taken with the full awareness and knowledge that men and women have to live together in life as well as in spiritual endeavour. This equality of men and women is being admitted in most countries and accepted even in spiritual pursuits. In our school, as in our Ashram, men and women are treated equally in all respects – in education, in work, in opportunities to progress. JAYANTILAL PAREKH (N.B. The article was found among the papers of the late author and has been touched up here and there for publication.) Source: Mother India (magazine), June 2001

The admission of women in an Ashram of spiritual seekers might strike many people as a dangerous novelty. In the history of past attempts to build a spiritual community, many an organisation has been wrecked because of wrong relationships developing between men and women dwelling together. But Sri Aurobindo's Yoga, as in many other fields of life, does not want to run away from difficulties; instead, it wants to meet them squarely and gain mastery over them. And hence Sri Aurobindo and the Mother admitted equally men and women disciples into the Sri Aurobindo Ashram from the very first day of its founding.

To meet successfully the ticklish and potentially subversive problem of human relationship between a sadhak and a sadhika, Sri Aurobindo has given us some guidelines which, if scrupulously followed, will protect us from any possible unhealthy deviation. These principles may be summed up as follows:

(i) An Ashramite should have universal goodwill for all irrespective of sex.
(ii) The love of the sadhak should be for the Divine. It is only when he has that fully that he can love others in the right way. 
(iii) A sadhak should not establish personal relationship with any other person in the sense of what Sri Aurobindo calls "exclusive mutual looking to each other."
(iv) There should be no relationship based on sex differentiation: no friendship with someone simply because that someone happens to be a man or a woman.
(v) All friendship should be totally free from any sex-colouring however subtle that may be.
(vi) Relationship between a sadhak and a sadhika should be as between two human beings and not as between a man and a woman.
(vii) One should not seek to establish relationships in order to satisfy the sentimental, sensational and physical wants of the lower vital nature.
(viii) No relationship should be formed with a craving for the gratification of unchastened emotional desires or physical passions.

Here are Sri Aurobindo's guidelines for safe human relationships to prevail in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and these were mostly followed in the early years of the Ashram. But over the years, especially in recent times, an unhealthy trend has set in. Many young people in their twenties or thirties, men and women alike, have started joining the Ashram in large numbers. Many of these youthful sadhaks and sadhikas have taken to the habit of having a girlfriend or a boyfriend of their own, depending on the case. Friendship is a good thing but when tainted with the sex feeling it becomes baneful to the development of sadhana. Sex-governed friendship between two members of the community cannot but lower the spiritual atmosphere of the Ashram. Page-83

No comments:

Post a Comment